Saturday 31 December 2011

Flavours of the Month: December 2011...


Glove And Boots - a new favourite YouTube channel of mine, I discovered it via their video "The Walkie Talkie Dead". If you like puppets, you're going to love Mario, Fafa, and Gorilla. Fantastically funny stuff!

Carnivale - I finished up the second season this month on Sky Atlantic and well, they certainly cancelled it back in 2005 on a bit of a cliffhanger, didn't they? I preferred the first season, especially as the second seemed to get a bit too lost and a bit too plodding at times ... and you can't beat that first season closer.

Ross Kemp On Afghanistan - a new run of the hard-hitting documentary on Sky 1. Illuminating, fascinating, chilling.

Black Mirror - from the mind of Charlie Brooker (which says a lot already), comes this trio of darkly twisted tales. The first episode was perhaps the most caustic, bleak, and ultimately haunting dose of satire I've seen in a long old while (perhaps ever). The second episode was overlong and lacked focus, but there were impressive ideas, and a strong cast. The third episode picked things up again by taking a brilliant little sci-fi 'what if' idea and spun it against the backdrop of a classic plot about adultery.

Charlie Boorman: Extreme Frontiers Canada - for a very long time now I've had this fascination with Canada (indeed I one day hope to visit the country), and being a fan of all the sorts of journeys that Boorman has undertaken over the years, I quite enjoyed this four-part series on Channel 5 ... but it would be nice if they put an extended version out on DVD.

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 - this richly detailed, masterfully written, deeply considered series is one of the best shows on television. The second season ramped up the complex motivations, suspicions, and double-dealings of all the well drawn and perfectly performed characters, and bloody hell - don't worry, no spoilers - the season finale is not only a brave move, but one that literally dropped my jaw and made me sit bolt upright in shock. I eagerly await the third season of this utterly engrossing drama - and if you haven't checked it out, then for goodness sake get yourself in on it.

Prometheus - the teaser trailer finally appeared and oh, the intrigue of it all. This is my most anticipated movie of 2012, with The Dark Knight Rises coming in second, and The Avengers in third on the anticipation scales.

Super 8 (Blu-Ray) - I loved it when I saw it in the cinema, and a second viewing confirms my love for this wonderful film. It's got real heart, real spectacle, a great range of adult and child characters, and well, it's just so damned nifty.


M83 "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" - sometimes you need the right time to listen to an album properly, especially a double album, and I finally got a chance to return to this great record that I've not been able to listen to enough for my liking. Top stuff.

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross ft. Karen O "Immigrant Song" - a driving, pulsing, thumping cover of Led Zeppelin's track, as featured in David Fincher's version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This track provided the backdrop for the superb teaser trailer.

Saints Row The Third - numerous tracks, but particularly "Pepper" by Butthole Surfers, "Angry Elephants" by Junkie XL and "Slow Revolution" by Tugboat.

Prometheus - the music from the trailer ... ooh, it's spine-tingling. That aural call-back to the trailer for the very first Alien movie just makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end in an instant.

Dick Figures "Bath Rhymes (Instrumental)" - from the excellent YouTube cartoon series "Dick Figures".

Alice Cooper "Spark In The Dark: The Best Of" - nearly two-and-a-half hours of excellence.


Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky - after weeks of pouring through this deep, dense, dramatic novel, I finally got it finished. It was a demanding read at times - for good reasons and bad at different times - and despite some sections around the middle where it seems to get a bit lost and lumpen in its storytelling, once we arrive at Polis the pace picks right back up again. Fascinating, extremely detailed, and very atmospheric.

The Festive Season - Christmas adverts on the telly (including that old one from Coca Cola that everyone of my age loves and considers the kick-off for the season once they've seen it), mince pies fresh from the oven, decorations, wrapping (with a nifty little tip I learned from James May's Man Lab Christmas Special on BBC2), and all the assorted festivities. 2011 has been a bit of a rough year - indeed at times it's been utterly awful - but then again there were good times and productive times, so it wasn't a total write-off ... but I do hope 2012 proves to be far better than 2011 was.

Dirt 3 - nabbed it on sale. The first non-shooty-or-sandboxy game I've bought for four ruddy years; I'm gradually getting the hang of this spiffing rally racer which features an entertaining Gymkhana section.

Ross Kemp On Afghanistan - I was given this book for Christmas two years ago, and I never got around to it until now. Fresh from the latest series on Sky1, and in search of (relatively) lighter reading after the demanding-yet-involving Metro 2033, I ploughed through this. Like the series its connected to, it proved to be a fascinating, illuminating, and at times sombre read. It really makes you better appreciate - from the comfort of your living room, admittedly - what the soldiers fighting on our behalf go through.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - one of my presents this year. I've only done the first act of the story mode, but so far it's rather enjoyable. Nothing that changes the formula, but it's good to return to this particular story arc. More on it in next month's Flavours of the Month.

Until then - I hope you've all had a spiffing holiday season, and here's to 2012!

Triple Bill Mini (and Cine) Musings: Last of 2011...

Similar to Despicable Me (which was quite enjoyable), Megamind centres around a villain who has to discover the good inside him to win the day. Featuring a great cast of voices (Will Ferrel, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, David Cross, Jonah Hill, J.K. Simmons etc) it's a good, fun time. Naturally it doesn't have quite the same 'pull you in' factor of a Pixar movie (although I've little interest in seeing this year's Cars 2, which seemed to receive luke-warm feedback), but Dreamworks did a ruddy good job nonetheless.

The 41 Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It:
Without a doubt, this 'spoof' of Judd Apatow comedies is the worst film I've seen all year. If you thought all those mind-bendingly awful 'Date Movie/Disaster Movie/Meet The Spartans' cinematic abortions were bad, then - amazingly - this load of old shite from 2010 is even worse. The sheer lack of any skill at comedy, as well as screenwriting, pacing, and narrative cohesion, is astonishing. Actual jokes are non-existent - in their place you instead get dreadful, shoe-horned-in moments of randomness that makes Disaster Movie look like a well-structured and thought-provoking drama, and such flatly redundant dialogue that you wonder how on earth anyone convinced the money men to pay for this utter drivel. It's incredible - nay, insulting (to all filmmakers and to all film lovers) - that this laugh-free, talentless, ham-fisted, completely misjudged rip-off, was ever produced in the first place. This shamefully inept and pathetic effort should hang like a skunk-sprayed albatross around the neck of anyone involved. Before you say it though, this is absolutely not a case of 'so bad it's good' - no, it genuinely is just trash with zero value whatsoever. It's an insult to mankind that this crap exists at all.

Mission: Impossible 4 - Ghost Protocol:
Brad Bird's live-action debut is a scorcher. This third sequel in the 15-year-running franchise is in no way at all the runt of the litter - it's a tip-top, nail-assaulting chair-grabber of a thrill ride.

No sooner has the Paramount logo been-and-gone than we're launched into the action at break-neck speed. From the very get-go the mission statement is clear: Ghost Protocol is here to kick arse - and kick it well. After a daring, action-crammed escape from a Russian prison, the IMF team find themselves on the receiving end of the titular protocol after the Kremlin is bombed and they're framed for it. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to catch the men responsible and clear their name in the process.

I'd have to watch the third film again to just be sure, but I think I can pretty safely say this is the best Mission Impossible since Brian DePalma's franchise-opening entry in 1996. Bird's direction is deft and works very well indeed with a script that perfectly balances nail-biting tension, adrenaline-drenched action, and sigh-of-relief-inducing smiles. Joining Cruise this time around are Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg (returning as Benji from MI:III, who is now a field agent) - and they gel together perfectly. Everyone gets their chance to kick arse, induce a few chuckles, and even generate a moment of regretful pause and introspection.

The first half is perhaps better than the second, but not by much - indeed it's such a breathless, well-balanced, breezily-paced, entertaining thrill ride that there were audible sighs of relief whenever the tension was expertly popped during some of the most tense sequences - such as a vertigo-inducing climb for Cruise's Ethan Hunt up the tallest building in the world (all-the-more impressive because it wasn't done using green screen - no, Tom Cruise really was hanging from a wire 130 storeys up) ... that sequence alone made the palms of my tightly-clasped hands sweat.

Simply a brilliant action movie spectacle - the ideal mix of brains and brawn.

Saturday 24 December 2011

More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead - The Definitive Return of the Living Dead Documentary (Bill Philputt, 2011)

Dan O'Bannon's 1980s horror comedy The Return of the Living Dead is a hell of a fun ride. So resilient is it, and important to the pop culture of zombies, that the standard go-to rendition of a zombie (e.g. as represented in The Simpson's) is that of lurching, half-rotted, risen-freshly-from-the-grave monsters who scream out for "braaaiiins". Featuring a punk rock soundtrack and a fresh, young cast (adorned in various counter-culture outfits), Return of the Living Dead mixed grisly practical gore effects with sly humour - but, crucially, the jokes never came at the expense of the ensuing chaos.

While the sequels haven't exactly proved to be legendary, the original has really stuck around as a fan favourite. Part 2 over-egged the comedy at the expense of the horror with a weak script (although it did do well in that it brought back Thom Matthews and James Karen, and had some pretty nifty special effects at times). Part 3 - under the direction of splatter-meister Brian Yuzna - re-upped the horror quotient and made for a fun time. Then, unfortunately, came the exceptionally ill-judged fourth and fifth instalments (Necropolis, and Rave To The Grave) ... the less said about those, the better.


Now more than a quarter-of-a-century old, the original Return of the Living Dead has warranted a full-on documentary from Michael Perez Entertainment - who have previously presented us with a doc on the A Nightmare On Elm Street series titled Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (although, personally, I'm yet to see that one). Make no mistake, if you're a fan of this movie, then More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead, is an absolute must-own.

Bringing in all the surviving key players from the cast and crew, the doc meticulously pours over every facet of the production from concept to production, and ultimately exhibition. The interviews are frank, honest, and at times hilarious - more of which can be garnered from a series of deleted scenes (one of which is an eyebrow-raising tale of visiting real-life crematoriums), and a credit-roll gag reel - suffice to say, everything you would want to know about the movie is here.

What's more, this is no cheap production, corners haven't been cut or anything rushed. The presentation, from Carl Ramsey's cover art to the interviews themselves (featuring lovely background set design), is done with care and a great deal of attention, making this as equally visually impressive as it is illuminating. However, it's not all talking heads - behind-the-scenes video (captured in the days long before DVD, when such footage was rarely shot or preserved) crops up throughout, as well as hundreds of photographs revealing all from between-takes moments, to concept art, and the development of the special effects.

As if the main documentary, which runs for two whole hours, wasn't enough, we fans are treated to a further two hours of extra features. 50 minutes alone is dedicated to parts two and three, pulling in various members of the cast and crew from the respective productions, before we even get to the rest. Deleted scenes, a location tour, music video, trailers, 'ROTLD in 3 Minutes', and most poignantly of all - an in-depth on-camera interview with Writer/Director Dan O'Bannon, who sadly passed away in 2009.

If you haven't been convinced already then check out the trailer - otherwise, what the hell's wrong with you? If you're into this 80s horror black comedy fan favourite then you'll simply have to buy a copy - without a shadow of a doubt, it's well worth your time and money.

For more information, please visit -

Thursday 22 December 2011

Prometheus - the teaser trailer is finally here!

Ridley Scott made a legendary name for himself with not one - but two - of the greatest and most respected science fiction movies ever made. In 1979 he gave us Alien, and then in 1982 we were gifted with Blade Runner (which was finally - seemingly at least - completed to his full satisfaction in 2007's "Final Cut").

Since then he's gone on to forge an impressive career to say the least - he's even now Sir Ridley Scott (and rightly so) - however he hasn't returned to the sci-fi world ... until now that is. I've felt that his directorial efforts in recent years have been lacking that something special. After a great double-whammy at the beginning of the millennium (with Gladiator and then Black Hawk Down), his output - to me at least - felt a bit lacking. Matchstick Men was decent, but not very memorable, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood were of no interest to me personally, and American Gangster (very proficient as it was) just felt like any one of a large number of 'rise and fall of a criminal empire' movies that have come out in the last 20 to 30 years.

Now though we have Prometheus to look forward to in 2012. At first it was an Alien prequel (an exciting prospect on its own), but then the secretive project morphed into something else - something within the same universe, but something seemingly altogether different. For months, fanboys and fangirls have been giddy with excitement, and this newly released trailer (which was preceded by a three-day-long series of teasers) has certainly got me hot under the nerd collar.

They have themselves a tip-top cast, an incredible looking production, and seemingly a newly invigorated Sir Ridley Scott at the helm of the whole thing - indeed as the teaser-trailer teasers suggested, this is the happiest he's been behind the camera for a while now - and I for one can sense that already.

What's more we're apparently going to have a Blade Runner sequel to look forward to sometime in the future, also from Scott.

Anyway - enjoy the trailer and ride the fangasm!

Quadruple Bill Mini Musings: December 2011...

Little Fockers:
With some of the cast having almost all of their scenes completely away from the actors, the dynamic that worked quite well in the previous film (Meet The Fockers) is mostly lost. It's no thinker by any stretch of the imagination, with some rather basic plot progression and even dunderheaded moments of character development/comedy ... it's all a bit underwhelming. There are some chuckles to be had for those familiar with the series, but if they plan on doing a fourth flick they'd better buck up their ideas after this.

Black Swan:
Darren Aronofsky's warped ballet flick is a wonderful mix of his over-the-shoulder style with the more strained psychological moments of films like Dario Argento's career-defining Suspiria, and David Cronenberg's entries into his own sub-category of 'body horror'. It wisely doesn't become ponderous and instead gets on with following Natalie Portman doing her absolute best to bring her ballerina crashing down into a pit of paranoia and perversion.

The Horseman:
This Australian indie horror makes for assuredly grim viewing, but intriguingly many of the worst moments of violence are left off-screen. More often than not we're witnesses to the brutal beginnings and creepy closings of violent sequences - it's a nice stylistic twist in this dark tale of a father who seeks to track down every last man who was involved in the porno production that preceded his daughter's untimely death. Disturbing and tense, but also shot with confidence, it makes for good genre viewing ... mind you, you might not be rushing back to see it any time too soon.

Dark Floors:
Otherwise known as 'The Lordi Movie' (aye, the horror rockers who are most widely known among the general populace for winning Eurovision a few years back), this is a turgid load of old cobblers. Missing the 'so bad it's good' mark by a country mile, it's just bad. The script is dull, the dialogue is cliched and boring, the plot makes absolutely no sense, there's a total lack of tension or suspense, and the inclusions of members of Lordi prove to be perfunctory and uninspired. For a flick as short as this, it doesn't half drag ... a bunch of people you don't give a stuff about randomly end up in some sort of hospital-bound hell, and all they do is traipse around all-too familiar corridors, briefly meet a member of Lordi, then run down to the next level to repeat the whole tedious exercise all over again. Unless you're a hardcore Lordi fan, don't even bother.

Monday 5 December 2011

Triple Bill Mini Musings: December 2011...

The Invisible Man Returns:
The sequel to James Whale's wonderfully dark, inventive, comedic, and sinister film doesn't share the same sense of style or horror perpetrated by Claude Rains' see-through scientist-turned-psycho. Here we find Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) wrongly convicted for murder - and about to swing for it - escaping from prison with the help of Dr. Frank Griffin (the brother of Rains' scientist), and his imperfect scientific discovery, to which the antidote must be found post-haste. There's a knowing sense of humour, and some inventive special effects (continuing what was established before, but never really topping them), and the obligatory nostalgia factor - these classic horrors of the 1930s and 1940s are the early roots (but not the starting seeds) of the horror genre we all know and love today - but I think I'll stick with the first film.

Morning Glory:
Rachel McAdams is a struggling TV exec who scores a job running Daybreak - a dead-end morning show - and it's her job to turn the ratings around lest the show be cancelled and replaced by soap opera and gameshow re-runs. It's a breezy and frothy comedy of little consequence when all is said and done - Patrick Wilson's love interest is a thankless, throwaway part (although it's interesting that the gender roles are reversed in this instance), for example - but Harrison Ford plays to his strengths as a grizzled and grumpy 'real news man' drafted in as co-anchor due to his contract. He drinks, he mumbles, he has spats with Diane Keaton's female co-anchor, and it all works out how you'd imagine from the start. Easy chuckles and the warmth of the cosily familiar replace any potential caustic satire or drama that could have been wrung out of the premise, but it's a movie that's easy-to-enjoy, un-demanding, and of the comfort food variety.

Middle Men:

Luke Wilson is a problem solver - he fixes businesses - and he finds himself caught up in the world of being a pornography middle man, helping run 24/7 Billing, the company that invented the world of paying for porn on the internet. "Inspired by a true story" goes the opening title card, although how much of this crime comedy/drama is true and how much is false, who knows - although murder, a Russian gangster, and some sloppy records keeping seem like they could easily be both. It starts off with a strange mix of world-weary comedy and depressed hindsight, and continues on a slightly uneasy path between the humorously overt (Giovanni Ribisi's wide-eyed, coke-snorting, paranoid ideas man) and the thoughtfully introvert (Wilson's marital and moral problems). It's an interesting flick - if you like stories of suddenly gained vast wealth and all that goes with it, then you'll no doubt get a kick out of this (albeit not-too long-lasting) - and it certainly kicks off with a fast-paced, info-overload bang ... if you like the sound of it, why not give it a spin?